Plant food is formulated with key nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Whether your plants are in raised garden beds, a compact greenhouse, or pots inside your home, these nutrients are important for replenishing the soil to help plants develop strong roots. These nutrients also help greenery grow larger, stay healthy, and produce more blooms.
Read through this guide’s reviews below to help you select the best plant food for the different plants in your indoor or outdoor garden.
- BEST OVERALL: Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed All Purpose Plant Food
- BEST ORGANIC: Joyful Dirt All Purpose Organic Plant Food
- BEST FOR INDOOR PLANTS: Aquatic Arts Indoor Plant Food
- BEST WEED PREVENTER: Preen 2164116 Plant Food Weed Preventer
- BEST SLOW RELEASE: Osmocote 274150 Smart-Release Plant Food Plus
- BEST HOSE ATTACHMENT: Miracle-Gro Garden Feeder
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Plant Food
Before you purchase plant food, it is important to understand the differences between the various products available on the market. Taking the features below into consideration before making a purchase can help ensure that the product you choose will best meet your needs.
There are three main forms of plant food, and while they are all designed to deliver nutrients to your plants, each option works a little differently.
- Continuous Release Plant Food: Continuous release options are normally sold in a granular form. This type of plant food should be added into the soil around your plants. The nutrients will be slowly released into the soil where they’ll facilitate plant growth and health. Because of the gradual-release formula, you don’t need to reapply this type of plant food as often as other alternatives.
- Liquid Plant Food: Liquid plant foods are designed to be delivered to your plants when you water them. Many liquid products come with a special bottle that can attach directly to your hose to release the plant food as you spray. Plants receive the nutrients from liquid solutions more quickly than from the continuous release options. However, the nutrients often don’t remain in the soil long. As a result, you will need to use liquid plant food more frequently.
- Water-Soluble Plant Food: Like liquid plant foods, water-soluble options are designed to be given to your plants while you are watering them. You can dissolve these products in water in a gardening can before watering your plants. The nutrients from water-soluble plant foods also reach plants quickly. However, you will also need to provide plant food more frequently with these options because the nutrients don’t stay in the soil for very long.
The type of flowers, shrubs, trees, and other flora you are growing may also impact which plant food options you should choose. Many products are specifically formulated to help fruit or vegetable plants grow. Others may offer a more robust formula aimed at all different types of plants. The plant food that will work best for someone with a vegetable garden may be different from the best plant food for someone with small potted succulents in their home.
Organic vs. Synthetic
Some plant food options are organic, while others are synthetic. A product must be made from plant- or animal-derived components to be considered an organic plant food. The organic matter in these plant foods can work wonders on soil and improve its texture, pH balances, and other characteristics which can contribute to overall plant health.
However, organic options do not contain as much nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium as synthetic (man-made) plant foods. This means that you will need to apply organic plant foods more regularly than synthetic plant foods.
Different plant food formulations may contain a different mix of nutrients. Knowing the nutrients that the plants in your garden require can help you select the best plant food to meet their needs. For example, if you are growing leafy green vegetables, broccoli, or sweet corn, then you will want to find a food that contains higher amounts of nitrogen. Iron, magnesium, and sulphur will be more important for shrubs like azaleas.
Some plant food options are also designed to help prevent weeds. If you haven’t found a solution that works to control the weeds in your garden, then you may want to consider one of these options. A plant food with weed prevention capabilities can simplify your work in the garden. You won’t have to apply multiple products to keep your plants healthy and ward off weeds.
Before making a purchase, you should also decide how you would like to apply the plant food to your garden. Liquid and water-soluble plant foods are applied as you water. They are either mixed in with the water in a gardening can or may come with a special attachment that you can use to connect them to your hose.
Continuous release options are designed to be applied directly to the soil. These products may come in a bottle with a shaker top or in a larger tub with a scoop.
Finally, you will also want to look for information about how frequently you will need to reapply each type of plant food to your garden. Some products will need to be reapplied every few weeks, while others may last for up to six months. Thinking about how you plan to care for your garden can help you pick a product that will best suit your needs.
Our Top Picks
Ahead, you’ll find plant food recommendations for indoor and outdoor plants. The products selected are from reputable brands and offer a variety of features to help you grow healthy plants.
Miracle-Gro’s Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food can be used to help both indoor and outdoor plants grow. Simply mix the powder with water in a gardening can or use your Miracle-Gro Garden feeder, and then apply it to your garden.
Be sure to thoroughly soak the base of each plant for optimal results. This plant food should be reapplied either every week or every other week, depending on your soil’s composition.
- Suitable for both indoor and outdoor plants
- Popular trusted brand
- Can revive old lifeless plants
The Miracle-Gro Shake ’N Feed All Purpose Plant Food is formulated with micronutrients that encourage healthy growth and will help plants yield larger quantities of fruits and vegetables. It is designed to deliver nutrients both above and below the soil.
This option comes in a large 8-pound bag, able to provide the right amount of food to all your plants. It can be applied to both indoor and outdoor plants in garden beds or flower pots. The continuous-release granules will deliver nutrients for up to 3 months.
- Large 8-pound package
- Contains natural ingredients
- Does not burn the plants
- Unpleasant odor
- May not be suitable around pets
The Joyful Dirt All Purpose Organic plant food is the perfect companion for indoor plants. Its organic formula is safe for pets and animals. Over time, the formula can help to revitalize soil and prevent diseases in your plants.
This product can be applied directly to the soil before watering your plants or can be mixed with the water in your watering can. Unhealthy plants may benefit from adding this plant food to every watering; for healthy plants, it should be used about once per month.
- Safe for pets and kids
- Prevents plant disease over time
- Great for rescuing dying plants
- Can produce bad odor when used incorrectly
The Aquatic Arts Indoor Liquid Plant Food is designed specifically for use with houseplants. It can help your plants look healthier, improve their roots, reduce brown spots, and stop them from wilting.
The liquid formula is made using only natural ingredients and includes the optimal ratio of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen for indoor plants. It can be used as frequently as every time you water your plants, as the gentle formula will not burn them.
- Improves roots
- Can be used with every watering
- Gentle formula
- Reduces brown spots
- Not enough product if you have multiple plants
Preen’s Garden Weed Preventer Plus Plant Food allows you to feed your plants while keeping weeds away. This product can be used on more than 200 types of flowers, vegetables, shrubs, and trees and is designed for use during the spring, summer, and fall.
The canister has a flip-top cap that makes it easy to sprinkle the gradual-release granules over your plants. Each treatment can provide nutrients for your plants and keep weeds away for up to three months.
- Suitable during spring, summer, and fall
- Works on many types of plant
- Convenient bottle for sprinkling
- Keeps weeds at bay for up to 3 months
- Stubborn weeds may still survive
You can use the Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Plus with a wide range of vegetation, including flowers, fruits, vegetables, trees, and shrubs. It is also suitable for most growing conditions, making it a great option for indoor or outdoor use. When used as directed, this product pledges not to burn your plants.
The granulated formula includes 11 essential nutrients that encourage plant health and growth. Each granule is coated in a special resin, allowing for a slow release of the nutrients. One treatment with this plant food can last for up to six months.
- A single treatment lasts up to 6 months
- Great for both indoors and outdoors
- May take longer to see any results
The Miracle-Gro Garden Feeder with All Purpose Plant food can help simplify the process of providing nutrient-rich plant food to a large garden. First, add water-soluble plant food to the Garden Feeder cup. Connect your hose to the garden feeder, turn the spray head, and pull the trigger to water and feed your plants.
For best results, you should be sure to soak the bases of your garden’s plants to ensure they receive sufficient nutrients. You should re-treat the area every one to two weeks.
- Great for large gardens
- Very easy to apply
- Three different spray patterns
- Can start to leak after long-term use
For a great all-around choice for both indoor and outdoor plants that require some food to really thrive, the Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food is a solid pick from a reputable brand. If weeds are a concern in addition to lifeless plants, consider the Preen Plant Food Weed Preventer, which can kill two birds with one stone.
How We Chose the Best Plant Food
The best plant foods are capable of producing visible results in a relatively short period of time and avoid burning or overstimulating the plant. This list of recommendations strives to span the wide range of plant varieties and their needs, both as indoor and outdoor plants, to provide shoppers with concise choices they can make, depending on their individual needs.
Our research took into consideration the various forms of plant food to provide our top picks for continuous release, liquid, and water-soluble plant foods. We have also made sure to include both organic and synthetic options with varying longevity. Since certain shoppers prefer a product they can add to every watering session, while others would rather apply a slow-release capsule that works over long periods of time, we have included options that can meet all these different needs.
FAQs About Your New Plant Food
Check out the frequently asked questions below to answer any questions you still have about plant food, and learn more about using plant food to help your plants grow.
Q. What helps plants grow faster?
An inorganic fertilizer can help plants grow quickly. These treatments release nutrients into the soil immediately, which will help encourage plant growth. Organic fertilizers are a good option for creating healthy soil, but they don’t release nutrients into the soil as quickly and may not foster fast growth.
Q. Is plant food the same thing as fertilizer?
No, plant food is not the same as fertilizer. Plants are able to create their own food from carbon dioxide, water, and energy from the sun. Fertilizers include nutrients that can help plants stay healthy, produce chlorophyll, break down carbohydrates, grow, and so much more.
Q. Should I feed my plants every time I water them?
You don’t need to feed your plants each time you water them, but you may choose to do so. Consult your plant food’s packaging for the manufacturer’s application recommendations.
Q. What time of day is best to feed plants?
Many experts recommend feeding plants in the morning. Typically, during the morning hours there is less wind to blow away any food you’ve put in the soil. If you wait until the hottest part of the day, your plants may be stressed from the heat, which means they may not be able to absorb as many nutrients.
Q. How long does plant food take to work?
The amount of time it will take plant food to work can vary based on a few different factors. These factors include the type of plant you’re growing, the type of plant food you’re using, and the other growing conditions, such as sunlight and water.
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Deirdre Mundorf is a freelance writer who most enjoys writing in the home, family, and pet niches. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Science degree is Psychology and spent the first 11 years of her career as an elementary school teacher. After the birth of her first child, Deirdre left the teaching profession to become a stay-at-home-mom. However, it wasn’t long until she rekindled her former passion for writing and took up freelance writing. When not writing, Deirdre enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, and traveling.